Indian monumental heritage has a rich and distinct history. Indian civilization being one of the oldest in the world, the monuments clearly depict the process of development of civil society in the nation and its adaptability to different cultures and religions from time to time.
Its significance can be clearly understood from the fact that more than 30 sites are registered with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) as world heritage sites and are granted special status by the national government.
The sites are spread all over the country and each location clearly defines the pattern and development of societal structure in the area.
An overview of the monumental heritage sites in India
Indian sub-continent is flooded with natural resources. Apart from a strong cultural base, it is a house for some of the best flora and fauna locations in the world. You can get a clear idea by going through the following world heritage locations. Area and figure given in the brackets aside the location is the place of the monument and the year in which it was listed by UNESCO.
Maharashtra state has the highest number of world heritage sites in India. The four main locations here are Ajanta caves (Aurangabad, 1983), Ellora caves (Aurangabad, 1983), Elephanta caves (Mumbai, 1987), and the historic building of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Mumbai, 2004).
Uttarakhand is blessed with an eye-catching natural beauty. Nanda Devi mountain (between Rishiganga valley and Goriganga valley, 1988) and Valley of Flowers (Chamoli, 2005) is a classic example of unique natural beauty. Valley of Flowers comprises of more than 500 species of flowers and herbs, some of which are highly exclusive and not found anywhere else in the world. It also houses a wide variety of fauna.
West Bengal includes some of the unique locations like Sundarbans National Park, Biosphere Reserve, Tiger Reserve (Sundarbans Ganges river delta, 1987) and the mountain railway or the ‘Toy Train’ (Darjeeling and New Jalpaiguri, 1999 and 2005). Sundarbans has the largest estuarine mangrove forest belt in the world and is also one of the major reserves for Bengal tigers.
Uttar Pradesh is one of the oldest known places in the world. Main sites in the area are Agra fort (Agra, 1983), Fatehpur Sikri and nearby monuments (Agra, 1986), and Taj Mahal (Agra, 1983). Taj Mahal has bagged a place in the list of Seven Wonders of the World since 1983.
Jama Masjid and Buland Darwaza are some of the important locations within Fatehpur Sikri. Delhi gate and Lahore gate are the two important spots worth watching in the Agra fort.
Delhi, the capital city of India, is an important tourist spot and includes three major UNESCO-listed sites. Red Fort, also known as Lal Quila (Delhi, 2007) has a beautiful building and complex and is the only of its kind in the world. Qutb Minar (Delhi, 1993) is an excellent example of engineering marvel. Humayun’s Tomb (Delhi, 1993) is another distinct architecture displaying considerable use of red sandstone in the construction.
Madhya Pradesh is a house for three important locations like Bhimbetka Rock Shelters (Raisen, 2003), Buddhist monuments (Sanchi, 1989), and Khajuraho group of temples and monuments (Chhatarpur, 1986). Sanchi stupas is popular for the ‘Great Stupa’ which is the oldest stone structure in the country.
Bhimbetka rock shelters are older than 1 million years and inform about the earliest signs of human life in the sub-continent. Khajuraho temples are famous for the display of unique architecture related to sex and are one of the Seven Wonders of India.
Tamil Nadu has a special place in the Indian history. Monuments at Mahabalipuram (Mahabalipuram, 1984) Great Living Chola Temples (Brihadeeswarar at Thanjavur, 1987, Airavatesvara at Darasuram, and Brihadeeswarar at Gangaikonda Cholapuram, 2005), and Nilgiri Mountain Railway (Darjeeling, 1999) have secured a fixed place in the list of sites recognized as important by UNESCO. Nilgiri mountain rail route has the steepest track in the Asian continent and includes more than 250 bridges.
Assam has two important locations as Kaziranga National Park (Golaghat, 1985) and Manas Wild Life Sanctuary (Himalayan foothills, 1985). Kaziranga is a house for more than two-third one-horned rhinoceroses of the world and is also a major tiger reserve.
It is also recognized as an important ‘Bird Area’. The area also has a wide variety of distinct species of animals. Manas Sanctuary is another major tiger reserve and is also known for wild water buffaloes.
Karnataka includes two main tourist destinations like the group of monuments at Hampi (Bellary, 1986) and several monuments at Pattadakal (Bagalkot, 1987). Hampi is an important religious destination for pilgrims and the main temple here is Virupaksha.
Pattadakal comprises of nine unique Hindu temples and the Virupaksha temple is an eye-catcher. This is different from the one at Hampi.
Rajasthan has gained immense attention as a tourist spot in recent times. The two prime locations here are Keoladeo National Park (Bharatpur, 1985) and Jantar Mantar (Jaipur, 2010). Keoladeo Park was previously known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary and is a regular home for more than 230 species of birds.
Thousands of birds visit the area in different seasons, but mostly in winter. Jantar Mantar houses some of the best architectural astronomical instruments used in the olden times.
Bihar houses the famous Mahabodhi temple (Gaya, 2002). The Dravidian architecture is popular as the place where Gautam Buddha attained ‘Enlightenment’.
Gujarat is another important tourist attraction and the main Indian monumental heritage here is Champaner- Pavagadh Archaeological Park (Panchmahal, 2004). kalika Mata temple is an important spot here apart from the several mosques, temples, palaces, and residential complexes of olden days.
Orissa includes the important Konark Sun temple (Konark, 1984). The location is an excellent example of Orissan art and architecture.
Goa is the one of the most famous vacation spot in India for the tourists worldwide. Churches and Convents of Goa (Old Goa, 1986) are recognized as important heritage sites, the main one being Basilica of Bom Jesus.
Haryana and Himachal Pradesh are intelligently inter-connected by a marvelous railway line called Kalka-Shimla Railway (Himalayan range, 1999). in all, there are 102 tunnels on the route.
Indian monumental heritage is one of the best replicas of an ancient civilization. There are more than 20 locations pending in the list of UNESCO to be approved as unique sites. Once approved, they will give a big boost to the tourism industry in India.